David Coulthard believes Jenson Button could be facing the end of his F1 career if no buyer is found for the Honda Racing team.
The retired F1 driver and soon-to-be BBC summariser fears his friend and neighbour in Monaco could be out of the running permanently if he is forced to sit the 2009 season out – and may be disappointed if the successor to his RA109 ever does make it to the track.
Coulthard, speaking at the launch of the Red Bull RB5 in Spain, said Button’s only realistic chance now lay in the former Honda Racing team being sold.
He said: “You cannot say 100 per cent, but it would be very difficult to imagine where he goes from there. It is a fickle business.
“The way the sport is now, there are so many young drivers coming through and there are so many opportunities for teams to pick up these guys.”
Coulthard added that he felt it was unlikely that the team’s car would be a front-running competitor and that Button should set his expectations accordingly. He also gave a poignant insight into Button’s state of mind over the last couple of years.
“Honda, off the back of a bad season, suddenly when they realise they are up for sale start talking that this is a winning design and it’s a great opportunity for anyone to buy this winning design. I don’t think it is a given that it will suddenly be a winning design.
“You would like to imagine that it would be better than what they were given last year but I think the team at the back of the grid potentially could be Honda.
“Whereas going into previous years with Honda [Button] was all full of hope and expectation that this could be the year that Honda will step up, he has to take a different view now. he has to now consider himself as driving for a mid-grid, privateer team.
“Whether they can deliver to his expectations or not is more difficult to judge going into this season and presumably longer term he has to be looking to try to make a step up to a manufacturer team.”
Meanwhile there is still no news about the future of the team, despite the fact that the start of the 2009 season is now only six weeks off.
The overwhelming likelihood is that a management buyout is in the works – but the team will still have to source engines and adapt the car accordingly, both of which could prove to be major undertakings.
Meanwhile the clock is ticking on the team’s and Button’s future.